Take the trip

I love to travel.

Seeing new places. Trying new foods. All of it.

It’s not just about the trip itself. It’s everything that goes into it. Researching the flights. Finding the perfect AirBNB or hotel. Planning activities to do once we’re there. It’s a thrill for me. Even if it’s not my trip, I love helping someone else plan theirs. I think in another life I was a travel agent.

The only thing I hate about trips is they cost a lot of money. Especially right now.

Seven years ago I was living in Little Rock and was a few months in at my new job as a multi-media journalist at a local news station. A fancy title for a job description that literally requires you to carry up to 50 pounds of camera gear and shoot, write and edit a story on a deadline each day. Not the most glamorous of careers, and certainly not the highest paying, but I loved what I did.

In the summer of 2015, my boyfriend Brock asked me to go to Alaska with him. He was born there and grew up in Juneau. I had never been to Alaska. I’m a Florida girl at heart with a love of beaches and warm weather. But the travel bug had bitten me and I could sense an adventure was on the horizon.

The only problem? I was broke. Starting out in the news industry yields very little income. Not to mention, a flight from Little Rock, Arkansas to Juneau, Alaska was easily a 1/4 of my paycheck. But I was in love and I wanted to share this adventure with Brock and explore the place he loved so much.

So I booked the flight. I can’t remember, but it was most likely on a credit card. I didn’t care though. All I could do was count down the days until I took off to a place I had never been before with the man I loved.

If you’ve ever been to Alaska, you already know it’s a beautiful place. I had no idea what to expect, but something told me it wouldn’t disappoint. And it certainly didn’t.

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Brock was so excited to be my tour guide. Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier. I had never seen a glacier before! I was amazed. I remember the sun was out and there was a slight chill in the air. I thought it was wild that it was the middle of summer and I was wearing a jacket!

Brock and I in front of Mendenhall Glacier, August 2015

The next week was spent doing all sorts of things I had never experienced before. We went fishing for salmon, which we caught and cooked that night. We ate Pel Menis, Brock’s favorite food, at this little restaurant in downtown Juneau. We saw humpback whales jump out of the water and create the biggest splash I’d ever seen. It was the most amazing week of my life.

Fishing for salmon in Alaska, August 2015

I remember waking up very early to go to the airport the day I was set to leave. It felt like the week had flown by. I hugged Brock so hard. I didn’t want to let go. Goodbyes are always hard in long-distance relationships, but this time felt different. I had this unnerving feeling. I was scared. I remember so clearly thinking, “What if this is the last time I ever get to hug him?” I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe I was overwhelmed with emotions with such a beautiful week coming to an end and our long-distance relationship beginning again. I missed him and I hadn’t even left yet. I hugged him tighter. I kissed him, said goodbye, and walked to my gate not knowing that was the last hug I would ever get from him.

Three weeks later, I got the call that Brock had passed away.

My heart aches when I think back on that moment at the airport. I had no way of knowing that was the last time. How could I? If I had, would I have done something differently? Would I have never left? Would I have made him come with me? The questions have run through my head on countless sleepless nights. I have wrestled with more “what ifs” than I can count. My mind replays that moment over and over again. I can literally feel the warmth of his hug, the touch of his hand holding mine. The ache becomes so real all over again.

There are so many things I wish I would have said or done had I known it was the last time. But there is one thing I would never change.

Booking that flight and going on that adventure was the best decision I ever made. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the precious memories made on that trip. They are all I have left of the man who stole my heart and forever changed my life.

Life is short. Tomorrow is not promised. You only live once. We hear these sayings the time, but are we really listening? This life is a GIFT and so are the people who are in it. So take advantage of every moment. Experience a new adventure. Try a new food. Quit your job if it’s making you unhappy. Stop waiting and ask him out! Be brave. Start over.

And always, always, always, take the trip.

Love, L.

Gratitude List

  1. A terrific novel I just discovered
  2. My first Thanksgiving in a long time with family
  3. A safe drive home after a long weekend in Texas

This is my gratitude list for today. It’s short and sweet, but it’s a big part of my morning. In fact, it sets the tone for my entire day.

It was a little over a year ago when my therapist recommended a gratitude list. She told me to write down 10 things I am grateful for each morning. My first thought was “10 things?! I can’t even think of one thing I’m grateful for!”

Let me explain — I’m not usually such a ‘Negative Nancy,’ but I was not exactly in the most positive mindset at the time I was assigned this task. I was going through a break up, grief was threatening to swallow me and I was dealing with some issues at work. So, the last thing I wanted to do was make a list of all the things I’m thankful for. But I decided to give it a try anyway.

In the beginning it was tough. I literally would sit and look around my apartment for ideas to put on the list. Hot cup of tea to relax me. Check. My favorite TV show just dished out another episode. Check. My dog didn’t rip my tights with her nails. Check. Silly things, I know — but I was grasping for straws.

I started each day with my list. My favorite cereal on sale. Check. Sunshine after a rainy day. Check. NY and Company having a sale and it’s payday. Check and Check! Every day was a little easier. As the months went on, I began to make a conscious effort to recognize moments that I was grateful for. Throughout my day, as positive things happened, I would make a mental note to add it to my list the next morning.

Soon, I was breezing through my list. Some days I had more than 10 things! I started to smile more. I laughed again. I sent more silent “thank yous” up to God.

In the last few months, I started to slack off on my list. Life got busy. But I will tell you, I notice it. I actually miss making my list every morning. My therapist was right (aren’t they always?) — making that list, as small as it may seem, really does create a change in you. Focusing on the good in your life provides a different perspective, especially when all seems bleak.

So my challenge to you is this: Start your own gratitude list. It doesn’t matter if it’s three things or ten — just do it! I promise you, there is a LOT to be grateful for, even if it is just a cup of hot tea.

Share your gratitude list for today in the comments below!

Love,
L.

Choose Joy.

Have you ever woken up in a bad mood? Maybe you slept badly. Or you are hungover. Worse yet — it’s Monday. Oh — and it’s raining.

Yes, that kind of day.

The bad mood you wake up in can carry with you throughout the day. Unless, you decide to change it and choose joy.

It’s a decision.

A conscious effort you have to make every single day.

And it’s not easy.

But let me be the first to tell you, there are worse things that can happen to you than being hungover on a rainy Monday morning after sleeping badly the night before.

Choosing joy has been a mission for me these past few years. And I’ll be the first to admit, I have failed at that mission. A lot.

But in order for me to live, I need to choose joy. It’s not an option. It’s necessary.

This blog isn’t just for those who have lost someone and are dealing with the unbearable pain of grief. But if that is you, keep reading.

It’s for the person who is struggling to find the light in the dark.

The person who, for whatever reason, has lost hope.

I’m not a therapist and I don’t have a happy pill to make life better. But I can speak (and write) from experience that even when it feels like all hope is lost, there is a light.

And that’s what I plan to do with this blog.

To write what I feel, when I feel it, and pray that it will reach someone who needs to hear it. It’s a little terrifying to put your pain on paper and be vulnerable, but in my experience, it has only helped me in the process of my own grief journey.

Just like in my Facebook posts, what I write will be raw, real and honest. Some things will come from my everyday encounters. Other parts will be straight from the pages of my personal journal, to help you see that where you are now in your hurt and pain is not where you will be forever.

Thank you to my friends and family who gave me the encouragement to do this. Here goes nothing! #ChooseJoy

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Love, L.